Where The Salad really got the bulletproof vest from will remain a mystery for the rest of time. There was, however, an instant general consensus that I should wear the thing and have one of them shoot me. Of course Salad had a story about how he supposedly bought it for forty bucks from some guy. This story, like all of his others, had a better than average chance at being a complete fabrication of actual events.
Now is probably as good a time as any to formally introduce you to the wonder that was “The Salad.”
He worked at the Houston Grand Prix and so he was one of the friends that I made after coming to work there. Taller than average, with thick glasses and slightly overweight, he was the quintessential redneck male. Despite his physical appearance, he was also stubborn and lazy. And though Ronnie The Fist, Austin, and I were frustrated with him often, we all liked The Salad quite a bit. Our relationship with him would sour over the years but at the time he was one of us and things were good.
This was my first time to see a bullet proof vest in real life, and to be honest… it was not what I was expecting. This thing was in a sad shape. It was the bullet proof vest equivalent to getting your dick sucked by a ninety year old woman with Parkinson’s disease. Sure, it might do the job but there are WAYYYYY more preferable methods to make that happen.
The vest was not just dingy white, but old-ass-attic-insulation white. It was grouchy. I suspect that was its main defense against bullets. The projectiles would get close and then decide that the orneriness of the filthy old bastard was more than they wished to deal with. At this point they would purposefully miss, much to the frustration of their marksman owners. The Kevlar looked like somebody shaved it off of a tempurpedic mattress and stuffed it in one of grandma’s old pillowcases.
I put it on.
I was not impressed.
I felt that I was less safe having put it on. This was reinforced moments later.
“Look” Austin said while I paraded around in the garment “It has a metal plate in the center to stop knives.” To my surprise, he stabbed the metal plate with a big pair of scissors during the above sentence. Thankfully, he did not miss and the plate spared several of my internal organs a big surprise. I did not feel that the demonstration was necessary, particularly while I was wearing the damn thing.
The vest did bring about several great times for us at the track though.
There were a couple of days where I would just wear the vest for no reason in particular while I was ringing up go-kart rides for people. This was always a great conversation starter:
Customer: “Is that a bulletproof vest?”
Me: “Yes. Do you want one ride or two?”
Customer: “Why are you wearing it? Two rides please.”
Me: “See all that glass and how it looks out to the freeway. This is not the greatest neighborhood you know, and I like to live. O.K. That will be twelve bucks.”
Customer: “Uhhhh…better make that one ride.”
Me: “Sure, six bucks.”
This always worked better if I could maintain a look of constant nervousness.
Sometimes we would put the vest into the redemption cabinet with the other prizes you would get for playing the carnival style games that bequeathed tickets to those with the skill or luck to earn them.
Of course you would have to play and kick unprecedented ass at Ski-Ball for five years or so to amass enough tickets to get the vest. Parents always found the “prize” amusing, and when asked about it I would tell them that we tried to provide practical rewards as well as candy. Funny, I don’t recall seeing those folks again. I hope nothing happened to them. Maybe they should have gotten the vest after all.
One night Austin and The Salad found a great use for the vest. Salad would wear the thing and Austin would hurl balls from the pool table at him from a few feet away. The spheres would slam into the metal plate built into the front of the vest and leave The Salad unscathed. The two men apparently found this to be great fun.
A customer who was shooting pool at the time, and more than likely the only other living soul around, started up a conversation with Austin.
Customer: “Is that a real bulletproof vest?”
Customer: (looking at the dingy, poor excuse for a vest disapprovingly) “Do you, uhhh, do you really think it could stop a bullet?”
Austin: “Hell yeah. Check this out.”
At this point Austin hurled a pool ball at Salad with as much force as he could muster, in order to simulate the results of a large, ceramic bullet being fired upon the vest out of a musket or something.
For reasons that cannot be explained by anything other than God’s will, his aim was off for the first time that night and the ball completely missed the vest and slammed into Salad’s shoulder instead.
The Salad: (collapsing like a sack of lead to the ground) “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.”
The customer was not impressed. It would seem that the vest had some design flaws.
I do wish there was video feed of that moment, for I would love to share it with you. There are truly wondrous things in the world, and many of them, like this, can’t be expressed in words. Not expressed in their true, glorious magnitude any way.
Like many of those fleeting times from my early days at the track, the fun with the vest had to come to an end eventually.
I decided that maybe I did not want any of the guys to shoot me while I wore it after all. I’m sure it would have been fine, because as I look back on my life it is hard to find a moment where something has gone horribly wrong…cough…cough.
Just as the details on the origin of the bulletproof vest are shrouded in mystery, so are the facts surrounding its disappearance. One day it was just gone. I think maybe The Salad sold it to someone else, you never know. I guess it was his to do with as he pleased.
It was probably for the best. Eventually one of us would have tested it out for real, and that someone would have been me.
And I’m probably just as bulletproof as that stupid vest was.